COLUMBIA — Members of MU’s No. 1-ranked football team could have said just about anything at Thursday night’s pep rally to make a crowd of about 3,000 or so fans erupt.
On a cold night, their presence was all that mattered. All the players had to do was announce their names and numbers and the energetic and anxious fans knew how to respond — loud enough to be heard as far away as San Antonio.
MU’s newest celebrities stood at the south steps of Jesse Hall and were greeted like royalty. It was part “Varsity Blues,” with a black and gold tiger twist. As the team gathered together before the rally, fans snapped photos like paparazzi.
Columbia sports radio commentator Gary Link had coach Gary Pinkel and the 14 players walk up the steps. When it was the players’ turn to speak, the message was clear: Make Saturday’s game a home game.
“Gary, Gary, Gary,” the crowd chanted before Pinkel, spoke.
“We are going down to San Antonio,” Pinkel said, and the crowd responded with cheers. “And playing Oklahoma.”
Pinkel thanked the crowd for its support during the season.
“We were undefeated at the ‘Zou, and we were undefeated because of you,” Pinkel said.
After Pinkel led the crowd through the famous “M-I-Z-Z-O-U” chant, the players took turns introducing themselves to a group that already knew them.
“I’ve got a proposition for you,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “Saturday, we play OU. Saturday we beat OU.”
The crowd roared when wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was introduced and shouted “Heisman! Heisman!” when quarterback Chase Daniel took the microphone.
Brent McCauley, an MU junior and former linebacker on the team, said he was excited to watch the team move up the polls this season.
“I never would have thought we’d be up to No. 1,” McCauley said. “Just hearing everyone out here singing the fight song was probably the coolest part.”
Sara Fougere of Columbia said she heard about the rally on the radio.
“We’re so proud that they’ve come this far,” she said. “I brought all three of my sons. They’re huge Tiger fans.”
Organizers passed out posters that said, “There’s only 1 Missouri,” and MU fan gear was sold at the event.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Pinkel said after the rally. “It gives fans a chance to see them out of the helmets, without their shoulder-pads on and all that other stuff.”